This weekend I finally got around to finishing up the last bits of work on my Gwendolyn cardigan. I seem to have the well-honed ability to under-estimate the amount of time finishing will take me, and in this case it had sort of slipped my mind that, oh wait, even when I’d finished the sweater parts, I still had to do the hood and the button-band before seaming everything up. Whoopsie daisies. But it’s done now and having a nice Soak bath before blocking, while I take an easy day recovering from a bit of a cold and resting up before spending the week with a super fun knitting visitor coming in for vacation time and knitterly hijinks. (How many knitting stores is too many knitting stores to show her around Toronto? We will find out.)
Gwendolyn is a lovely pattern to be sure, and one that asks a moderate amount of challenge from the knitter without being fully overwhelming. I like Fiona’s designs (unsurprisingly, since I am fond of cables), and I also admit that I prefer seamed sweaters when I can get them. The seamless sweater definitely has its benefits and I’ve knitted a few of those in my time as well, but there is something very satisfying and structural to me about working up a nice seam and watching the completed garment come together seemingly before one’s very eyes.
This is a pattern that requires you to work up the side seams by seaming reverse stockinette (with the purl side facing), rather than seaming up regular stockinette (with the knit side facing) which I tend to encounter more often and admittedly gravitate towards as a personal preference when designing seamed sweaters myself. As I worked this up I remembered the first time I learned and used that skill – it was many years ago when I knitted my first Ribby Cardi by Bonne Marie Burns of Chic Knits, and man, I was so annoyed. I’d gotten good at seaming regular stockinette seams by that point (and sort of liked it), but had never done it for reverse stockinette, and the idea of seaming up on those purl bumps just seemed far too aggravating. I remember I did the first few inches of the first seam as sort of a haphazard effort, only to eventually cave and go find out the real way to do it.
I went and consulted the nearest knitting reference manual that I could find, which I am pretty sure at the time was my sister’s copy of Stitch & Bitch. The pictures and written explanation were clear, and after a couple of minutes I had it down. (I actually still recommend this book as a clearly written, priced-to-own beginner’s manual. Those books have a lot going on. While I’m here, I also love my Vogue Knitting reference book, and Nancy Wiseman’s book on finishing techniques.)
Last week I was also having a bit of back-and-forth chatter on Twitter with Kate (a Toronto knitter/tech editor/teacher), about how we write knitting patterns and managing the amount of knowledge/explanation that we include in the instructions, and how hard it is to know where to draw the line. How much do we explain? How much do we expect knitters to have to find out for themselves?
Truthfully, I’m still figuring out the answer to that. I enjoy knitting, I enjoy teaching, and if I can impart a bit of knitterly wisdom like how to work a cable without a cable needle by tucking it into some pattern instructions, then boy howdy I’m going to do that. But I do know that, inevitably, every knitter is going to get to a point in their knitting lives when they encounter a new instruction or a technique they’ve never heard of before. It might be something the pattern/book explains to you, or it might not. When that happens, you get the opportunity to learn something new, and run scurrying off to the nearest reference manual/fellow knitter/yarn shop/internet to figure out how to do it.
Eventually, though, you’ll get to a knitting instruction and it’ll sneak up on you that – wait a sec – I already know how to do that, and you’ll just carry on doing it. Years ago I annoyed myself into learning how to do a reverse stockinette seam on a Ribby Cardi (now long since gifted away), and now I can do the same thing on my own Gwendolyn cardi for me, and just go right ahead and do it. (Thankfully, though, there are still plenty of frontiers left to cross. Years later, me and kitchener stitch, we still have our battles – err, learning opportunities to manage. It’ll be good – eventually I’ll annoy myself into learning how to do it properly, and then I’ll have to find something new to figure out.)
What’s something you’ve learned from knitting lately? It’s never a dull moment, that’s for sure. Happy Monday, and happy knitting!